By Madi Jobarteh
The allegation by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare Saffie Lowe Ceesay that the country’s young doctors are an obstacle to the efficient delivery of healthcare in the country is indeed a major cause for concern. The Minister’s claim that young doctors divert drugs from our hospitals to their pharmacies must be investigated without delay. It is even more concerning when the Minister made the point that she was quite sure of what she alleged because she was the Permanent Secretary.
For that matter Minister Lowe-Ceesay must tell us what she knew then and now and what she had done then and now to address this mater. As the head of the ministry now and as the chief technical, administrative and accounting officer, i.e. Permanent Secretary in the past, it therefore begs the question as to what does Saffie Lowe Ceesay know and what she has done about what she knows other than making such a huge allegation.
The allegation she made is indeed very serious as it does not only impugn the credibility and dignity of these young doctors but she is also exposing the direct threat of corruption on the lives of the people. Anytime Gambians go to our public health facilities they have been asked to go to private pharmacies to buy the drugs prescribed for them by our young doctors. Many more Gambians cannot get the necessary medical attention in our health facilities because of lack of equipment hence many Gambians go to foreign countries to seek better healthcare. Consequently many Gambians have died because of our poor health services.
Thus when the Minister makes this claim, all Gambians must be seriously concerned. This is because by claiming that our doctors steal our drugs it means many lives could have been saved if those drugs were left in our hospitals for the benefit of our people. But since the drugs are being stolen Gambians are therefore made to pay more for healthcare or die from lack of necessary drugs.
At the same time, it is also a fact that there has been a proliferation of private pharmacies in this country where many of our young doctors also serve as part-time doctors? From where do these pharmacies get their drugs? Is there any possibility that private pharmacies are obtaining drugs from the public health system? If so, how does that happen? Who is responsible?
I therefore demand that the Minister of Health further explain what she knew then and knows now and what she did as Permanent Secretary to address this matter then and what she has been doing to address the matter now since becoming minister. Failure to do so means the Minister is merely passing the bug to another set of people away from herself which is utterly unacceptable. The success or failure of our public healthcare system squarely falls on the hands of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. Hence the Minister cannot just make a wild claim without evidence, investigation and accountability.
Our ministers must understand that they cannot just make any kinds of statements without facing accountability for those comments. It is true that the Gambian healthcare delivery system is in shambles for a long time. To address this matter is the responsibility of the Gambia Government through the Ministry of Health. Hence the Minister of Health must know what she talks about before she talks.
If the Minister fails to give further details on corruption in her ministry particularly involving young doctors stealing drugs and the practical steps she is taking to address that, then I would join the members of Gambia Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) to demand a retraction, an apology and a resignation from her for such unfounded comments. The ball is in her court!
For the Gambia Our Homeland.